NFL players will be subject to fines and perhaps even suspension for wearing non-Bose headphones during TV interviews, thanks to a new agreement between Bose and the NFL. The restriction requires players wearing non-Bose gear to cover up the competitor’s logo or else face punishment. The rule is in effect during practice sessions and on game days, starting from the opening kickoff and lasting until 90 minutes after play has ended.
While it is not unusual for leagues to impose restrictions on player use of apparel or equipment in order to protect league sponsors, the NFL’s restrictions on headphones is of a different character. In the former situation, player apparel and equipment is viewed as part of the player’s uniform, which typically is team-issued. League restrictions, in such situations, are understandable. Headphones, on the other hand, are personal items that players purchase with their own funds. The NFL’s current restriction is in place because of a deal the league reached with Bose to outfit coaches with headphones. That’s what makes this hard to swallow. This is not a situation where the sponsor is providing players with apparel as part of its deal with the league and the league turns around and imposes rules to bar player use of competing apparel.
That all NFL coaches now use Bose headphones on the sidelines under the new sponsorship deal should not result in players being subject to fines for wearing Beats by Dre. Want to fine a coach for wearing non-Bose headphones? Fine, that makes sense. But don’t fine a player. Players are not immediate beneficiaries to the deal or even the intended users of the equipment.
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick wore his Beats by Dre headphones to a recent postgame interview and was banged $10,000 by the league. Repeated offenses could result in escalated fines or even suspension. It remains to be seen how long Kaepernick will defy the league’s edict. In any event, he deserves credit for taking a stand and bringing attention to this issue. An issue that leaves at least one person scratching his head and asking, What’s up with that?